Saturday, May 30, 2015

Summer Reading!

OPL's Summer Reading Program starts today. In 2013 I won the contest and a $500 gift certificate to Green Street Cycles, where I got a sweet new bike. Last year I didn't win anything. This year I WILL WIN! I am not fond of how the system is set up this year: when you log ten hours of reading, your name is entered into the drawing. Then as you earn badges, your chances of winning is increased. The problem is, many badge codes are listed online on the website, so it is easy for people to cheat and to just grab as many codes as possible. It is easy to cheat on the logging hours as well (and also a super low amount: 10 HOURS! I will read that this weekend while Eleanor is visiting her father, seriously!)

But anyway, I decided on 40 books for the summer, and I will do my best to get as many of these badges as possible because not winning stinks. And I love reading, so there's that too.

Happy Reading!

Mary Queen of Scots


Rating: 4 Stars


Having quite a background already on Mary, I did not expect anything new. What I did find, however, was beautiful photographs of Mary's portraits, her belongings, and the many buildings where she spent her life, both free and captive. I love Scotland deeply and it is always nice to see these places. I am especially fond of Stirling Castle, where Mary spent time.

As always, and I have said in many other reviews of this topic. Elizabeth I acted without authority and is guilty of murder, having signed the death warrant for a fellow sovereign who was never her subject, and thus she had no right to do so. Additionally, she is full of it - she knew full well that the moment she signed the warrant, the orders would be carried out, because her counselors couldn't wait to get rid of Mary and destroy the Catholic cause in England. Her behavior is disgusting and I can not understand why she remains so highly esteemed. But that is a whole different argument and I must stop, lest she take over this review and overshadow Mary.

The whole issue of the marriage to Bothwell troubles me - far more than whether or not Mary was complicate in Darnley's murder. Some say she went into the marriage willingly, but by her own words she did not. Mary made terrible choices for most of her adult life and it oddly makes sense to me that she would feel forced to marry Bothwell after having been raped, as any shred of control over her country that she had left would have been blown to smithereens if knowledge came to light that the queen had been raped. I think it is important to note that text makes mention of the fact that in captivity, Mary kept portraits of her first and second husbands, but she nothing from Bothwell. This to me speaks volumes, as it is pretty easy to see that Mary abhorred Darnley, his immaturity, his visits to brothels, his STD(s), and in general his spoiled and bratty behavior.

It saddens me that May was kept from her son, and that James did literally nothing to help his mother. I get that he was pretty much brainwashed his whole life into thinking that she was a terrible person, but she continued to show love and affection for him, sending him embroideries, verses, and jewels. I can appreciate James having Mary's later interred in a place much more suitable for an anointed queen, but it seems too little, too late. I understand having to stay on good terms with Elizabeth in order to inherit the crown on her death, but seriously? No one else had the claim he did, and even if she tried to bar him from succession, after she was dead there would be nothing she could do about it and he still would have been crowned king.

In conclusion, this is a nicely put together biography of a woman who had many difficult decisions to make in a very difficult time. She had few true allies or friends, trusted people she should not have (though these same people are those who should have supported and protected her. I'm looking at YOU, Moray!) Mary was wholly unequipped to rule such a volatile place as Scotland was at the time of her return. She did the best she could, especially in regards to religion, which was the biggest sticking point for everyone. Her life and death are tragic and she should be remembered accordingly.


I can't help it, I love showing off pictures from the trip my mom and I took to Scotland a few years ago. I fell in love with Edinburgh and the country as a whole. What a beautiful, wonderful place. All photos belong to me and were taken in Scotland in November of 2009.

 Our first view of Edinburgh Castle, our first morning in Scotland. Mom and I were very anxious to see everything, had just dropped our things off at the Ben Doran (cutest and most comfortable B&B EVER.) We wasted no time falling in love with the city.

 St Giles on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.

Loch Lomond

At Stirling, my favorite so far.
Stupid guy got in the way of Mary almost!

Leaving Stirling...we were there so long they'd already closed the gates!
In St Margaret's Chapel at Edinburgh Castle. The chapel is the oldest building in the city.

I have tons more pictures I could share, and probably will whenever I read a book about Scotland. It is such a beautiful country, I wish I could ive there, or at least visit more often.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Kings and Queens of Great Britain: Every Question Answered


Rating: 4 Stars


Hugely comprehensive guide to the monarchy, starting with my favorites, the Wessex Kings, up through Elizabeth II. I find I'm not as interested in the monarchs to rule after James I, but it was still readable none the less.

There were facts here and there I'd not read before - such as Henry VII beating Henry VIII when he was angry - and I'm not sure are truly accurate. I've read more of the Tudors than any other dynasty, surely I'd remember a future tyrant getting his ears boxes by his increasingly conservative father?

All in all, there was nothing actually new to me, but I found it entertaining anyway. I especially enjoyed the end section that contained several governments going back to the time of Alfred. I love reading items like this in their original wording, the old old old English, so to speak. Recommended for anyone interested in the history of the English throne.


Whenever I read books like this that cover topics or people I know quite a bit about, I find it comforting. People have asked how I can read about the same people, places, and things over and over. Here is why: first, different authors have different perspectives, and may also have access to different sources (I guess if they want to be especially sneaky). The other reason might sound silly, but it is almost like catching up with an old friend who is retelling a story that I have already heard one hundred times. But still I listen (read), because it is a story I enjoy so much. This is exactly why I ca and will read every scrap of material I can get my hands on about Eleanor of Aquitaine. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Greatest Knight


Rating: 5 Stars


Without a doubt, William Marshal is the greatest unknown figure in England's history. He lived and thrived in the age we look back on now with rose-colored glasses, imagining chivalrous knights and jousting tournaments. Yet in truth, Marshal truly did epitomize that idea of chivalry and fidelity, remaining true to his monarch time and again - especially in the case of King John, who he could have easily abandoned with all the back-stabbing, or in the case of King Henry III who he could have simply turned his back on when the boy king lacked support for his reign among the many nobles who sought allegiance with France.

Marshal is a figure I've long been familiar with, at least in regards to his exploits with Richard the Lion Heart and the terrible King John. Yet there's so much more to this remarkable man's story and here it finally is, being told in such a way as Marshal deserves. That is not to say he was a perfect saint in a violent age; Marshal was a warrior through and through. But this perspective must be kept in accordance with the age in which he lived. As a younger son with no land or prospects, becoming a knight is truly the only option he had. Driven by ambition, Marshal grabbed hold of his destiny and went full throttle, serving five kings in his lifetime and outliving four of them - Young Henry, Henry II, Richard I and John.

The story is not just of the life and largely forgotten legacy of William Marshal, but of England. As Marshal rose to prominence, he was tasked more and more as defender of the realm. Time and again he fought alongside his king - or in the case of Henry III and the decisive battle at Lincoln, fought on behalf of. It seems almost impossible, but it's true; Marshal's final military battle occurred around the age of 70, leading his troops in order to drive back the always-meddling Capetian monarchs, sending them back to France where they belong. Marshal survived, won the day, and eventually retired from public life when he realized his body was finally betraying him, that he could no longer perform his duties to the crown as he'd done for five decades. Marshal was afforded two things that many of his contemporaries were not: a long, full life, and a peaceful death at home in bed.

This is a must read for anyone who enjoys the study of this turbulent age in England. It but only recounts the life of Marshal, and the breaking up of his hard-won dynasty after his death, but details how his life and career were interwoven - and ultimately tied-to in some cases - the many other great figures of his day: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, and Richard I. Though this is a substantial book given the slim amount of source material, it was not a dry, academic read. Marshal's life was so intriguing and entertaining, there's no way the book could be anything but. Definitely a must-read.

It troubles me that such a remarkable man, one who played such an important role in England's history, is not given due respect. William Marshal is unknown to many today but it is my sincere hope that with the publication of this wonderfully written and well-researched biography, he can once again be back in the spotlight where he belongs.


I don't normally buy books, which I know seems unusual for someone who loves to read as much as I do. Truthfully, it i just not practical when I live in an apartment that is already brimming with baby toys and books ad clothes and furniture. I love the library system here and have access to pretty much any book in the country, based on the system OPL uses that allows us to borrow from libraries all over the US (still have to pay shopping fees, which are usually only a couple dollars though). This book is one of the exceptions - Mom took me book shopping for Mother's Day and this was my without a doubt must-have.

The Battle That Stopped Rome


Rating: 4 Stars


Normally I'm bored to tears when it comes to books about the Roman military, though I definitely enjoy the daily life aspects. Still, this was an informative read about a incredibly important battle that few people actually know about. There were a few overlapping sections that became repetitive, but overall it was an easy read. Though there's not a whole lot of information about this battle, Wells' does a decent job with what he has to work with. He provides background information in the years leading up to this complete decimation of three well-trained, highly-skilled Roman legions - who never stood a chance, trying to fend off a surprise attack in an unfamiliar environment against a diverse population they didn't understand.

Even a few days later, I am still thinking about this book. It was well-written and a surprisingly fast read, despite the subject matter. Perhaps it is just me, but I find a lot of work about Ancient Rome to be tedious when it comes specifically to military. I am not interested in this genre, whether it is modern or ancient. This book is important though, as it covers multiple aspects of this specific battle and how this came to be the borders of ancient Roman power. I find the Germanic peoples fascinating in their own right and only wish they'd have written their own histories, as it would be much better to see the victories and defeats through their own eyes, instead of only having Rome's perspective. They were neither accurate nor kind the majority of the time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Reading Goals

So every year on Goodreads you can set your reading goal for the year. Last year I started June 1st (two reasons: that is when the Omaha Public Library Summer Reading program starts, and that is also when I realized Goodreads HAS a yearly goal.) I set both goals low, I think 25 each, because I was not sure how much reading I would get done with a little one scooting around. but gradually I had to keep upping the goals. The OPL program ended in August and I ended meeting my (upped) goal of 45 books. I ended up changing my Goodreads goal repeatedly and ended with a goal of 110, and reading 111 books.

Fast forward to today, where I currently have read 120 books, out of my goal for the year of 200. I am not sure what to set my goal at for the summer, I am thinking 50. A lot of people ask how I have so much time to read when I have a toddler running around. Pretty much, I read while she naps and I read for a while after she has gone to bed for the night. Every other weekend and on Wednesdays when she is away from me, I spend a lot of time reading also. It helps keep my mind off of the fact that she is not at home. It is not 100% effective, because I still miss her like crazy, but it is the best solution so far. So, there you have it, that's the secret to my success: I never do anything outside of play with Eleanor and work, except read (and occasionally clean!)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book Covers

It occurred to me that I should clarify something that probably does not need clarifying, but I must say it anyway in order to prevent any kind of legal trouble. I, of course, do not own the cover art for any of the books I have posted reviews for. I decided yesterday to start posting the cover of said book I was reviewing, as to me cover art is a very important aspect of the reading experience that is often overlooked. The cover is (usually) the first experience a reader has with the book. It is what draws them in, sometimes before or after a summary. I felt it was necessary and don't know why I didn't do it with past reviews; sometimes I miss the obvious things. But anyway, no, they are not my property, I do not have the copyright for them, they are covers as posted on Goodreads or the author/publisher website.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mary Queen of Scots: The Fair Devil of Scotland


Rating: 4 Stars


At first I was hesitant to read this one, given the sub title. Luckily I was pleasantly surprised for the majority of the book, despite it being written in 1975. It was largely supportive of Mary, something she lacked for most of her life.

While I don't think Mary is someone who can be admired for her decision-making skills, she was by all accounts a kind person in unkind times. Mary was a young woman who trusted easily, and could not fathom at being treated as anything but a queen - due to her comfortable upbringing at Court in France. I can't imagine such a terrible series of events, to lose a doting father in law, mother (from afar), and husband in such a short time, it is no wonder that for the rest of her life, Mary would crave and seek whatever affection she could find.

The biggest issue I have with this book is the author's presentation of facts in regards to Bothwell's likely rape of Mary. To say that Mary welcomed this, that she enjoyed it, was so terribly ridiculous, I contemplated not finishing the book at that point. I don't believe Mary was Bothwell's mistress before Darnley's murder. I believe he did rape her at Dunbar, and Mary felt she had no choice but to marry him. Of course, this was just one more mistake in the long series of mistakes that plagued Mary's adult life. Additionally, I found the author repeatedly referring to Bothwell as Mary's 'sexual awakening' to be highly disturbing. It too nearly made me stop reading.

As I read more and more about Mary, I feel more and more sympathy for this tragic figure. Her entire live was planned by men who cared only for their own ambitions. Mary had opportunities to break from them but perhaps could not, because she felt a deep sense of loyalty to those especially who were family. If only she had been treated in kind.

As always, Elizabeth I is a manipulative spoiled brat who knew full well the death warrant would be carried out and was too much of a coward to appear at the trial. Such a vain woman knew from years of hearing of Mary's beauty and charm that she would certainly pale in comparison. 

I can recommend this book, but perhaps only to those who already have a more firm knowledge base in regards to this much-maligned queen. There are certainly better books about Mary, particularly Linda Porter's Tudors Versus Stewarts, but there's a kind of charm in these old books that I find appealing, even if some of the facts are now shown to be wrong.

As a side note, I've visited Holyrood with my mother when we were in Scotland in 2009...

(Photo taken November, 2009 Edinburgh, Scotland)

And a picture of the Abbey ruins, just because ruins are neat

(Photo taken November, 2009 Edinburgh, Scotland)

...and always find it a little discomforting to read of Rizzio's murder. Having stood in that room and been where it actually occurred, gives me the chills.


I always find it so sad when children and parents are separated, though it was considered normal at the time. I understand why, but is it any wonder that Mary turned out as she did, wanting and needed affection from those close to her, when she was taken from her own mother at a young age - just as her son was in turn taken from her.


So it had been a while since I had been able to post any reviews. Today I was able to post several about a variety of books I have read in the last month or so. My main reason for starting this blog was to have a place for my reviews in the event that something happened to them on Goodreads - I have heard some not so great things from various other users about their reviews being removed, though I do not know the reasons behind the removals. Another reason is to discuss books with others who love reading, so I would love to do that as well. Please leave me a note so we can chat!

Last Dinner on the Titanic


Rating: 5 Stars

Found this by accident as I browsed the shelves at the library yesterday, but what an interesting read on many levels. Firstly, the 15 year old in me will remain forever obsessed with all things Titanic (Kate and Leo pretty much cemented that - they only had each other!) Secondly, I enjoy history in general, and thirdly, I love food.

The author provides not only recipes based on surviving menus from that last night as well as tips and substitutions, but brief history of the ship, some notable passenger dinner parties, proper etiquette should you want to throw your own Titanic dinner party, and much more. There were many photographs included that I had not seem before, though many came from the Olympic, Titanic's sister. There are even passenger biographies included if you truly want to recreate the final meal, complete with instructions for invitations, formal wear, napkin folding, and wine suggestions.

If only I had a sous chef.

Growing a Girl


Rating: 3 Stars


First, the book was published in 1996, so it will come across as very dated because it is.

However, there are some things it still has going for it - the strategies and key ideas themselves are great takeaways. At several times the author also suggests several books to support these strategies - from positive heroines, to women in history and science.

Unfortunately, the anecdotes were beyond absurd. The one that sticks out to me above all others came early on when a little girl sat on her basketball and pretended she was hatching an egg, because apparently girls can't play basketball. I don't know why this story annoyed me above all the other stupidly absurd and, in many cases, unrealistic or ridiculous examples. Perhaps it's because for Christmas just a few months ago my (then) 18 month old got a Little Tikes basketball hoop of her own, and has had no trouble figuring out what the ball and hoop are for.

Side note: we still love Disney in this house, and own, (not rent) the majority of the DVDs. Additionally, the positives I took away from reading the Baby-Sitters Club books when I was younger is that these girls were my age and they started their own business. Apparently Dr Mackoff took away something else entirely. 

So, to sum it up, skip the anecdotes and focus on the actual key ideas and strategies offered. Most often, the filler isn't worth your time.


I reread the review just now and realized it does seem kind of negative. There are many positives that parents can learn from this book that would be helpful in making sure our young women grow up confident and sure of themselves. I would recommend the book, I simply meant that some of the stories Mackoff provides are ridiculous.

Parenting Your Powerful Child


Rating: 4 Stars


I myself was a powerful child. I know what a handful I could at times be for my mom, and I myself now have a daughter so...naturally it is possible she too could become a powerful child, hence why I was interested in this title.

When you get past the cheesy, forced conversationalist writing style, there are many good points. Dr Leman provides examples and anecdotes - I just could do without his childhood stuff. We get it, you were a naughty, bratty little shit when you were younger. You say so IN EVERY BOOK. Well, both that I've read so far ('The Birth Order Book' being the other, though I enjoy the original title, 'Abel Had it Coming' much more.) It just gets repetitive after a while. I do see value in the book however, as I have a Master's in behavior disorders and work exclusively with those children in a self-contained classroom. I couldn't help but smile when Dr Leman mentioned the kid being diagnosed as 'operational defiant' when all he needed was the parent to really talk. In some cases that is true; for my students at the 'revenge' stage however, the diagnosis is quite correct. I'd like to give a copy of this book to parents each year of the new students who join my class. It could go a long way toward helping many.

Witnesses to Mystery


Rating: 5 Stars


Since I'm not Catholic, I'm not supposed to be interested in holy relics. Well, too bad Martin Luther, because these objects are fascinating!

Okay, so maybe they're fascinating on multiple levels, both religious - seriously, could this have belonged to Jesus?! - and historical - seriously, this object has survived for nearly 2,000 years?!

This book is certainly a work of heart. The author spent hours and days and weeks and months and it shows. The photographs are beautiful, the text and side texts are well-written, and I was left wanting to see them in person for myself. Clearly ample amounts of research went into each object, in order to determine how it might have gone from Christ's burial place to whichever far-flung corner of Europe that now claims it.

No matter what testing is done in our lifetime, we may likely never know for sure of these items are authentic, but the author gives proof for his beliefs, acknowledging when necessary it's utterly inconclusive. I highly recommend this one.

Queen Elizabeth I


Author: Susan Doran

Rating: 3 Stars


If you never read a single book about Elizabeth I, don't start with this one. It does a nice job of giving an introduction to Elizabeth's reign, but is by no means comprehensive all all-encompassing. Even Doran, who is quite biased in Elizabeth's favor, has written better (I recently read an ARC from NetGalley by Doran called Elizabeth I and Her Circle, much better though still quick to excuse Elizabeth's flaws instead of admitting they're there and leaving it at that.)

To me forever, Elizabeth will be a manipulative, spoiled, attention-demanding, tantrum-prone queen. Though Mary did herself no favors by constantly being involved or implicated in assassination plots, Elizabeth certainly laid blame everywhere but on herself when the execution order was acted on.

There won't be much new info here for those who are Tudorphiles, but I definitely don't recommend it as an intro to her reign. Perhaps it's best described as a handy volume as a quick refresher

Meet Me in Atlantis


Rating: 5 Stars


What a wild ride. I loved this adventure, and isn't that half the fun - the adventure of getting to wherever you're going, more so than the end point itself? I appreciated the author's change of mindset, going from someone who wanted to find out what made people so obsessed with Atlantis, to almost becoming obsessed with finding it himself. I find the subject itself fascinating, and wish I had the resources he has to go traveling from place to place, dutifully following one lead, then another, then another. He is objective, never giving one theory precedence over another, finding flaws in each as he weighs the evidence supporting each. I'm quite jealous of the people he meets and the places he sees throughout his travels. 

At the risk of sounding like some kook, much like so many of those who search for Atlantis have been labeled, I want Atlantis to be real. I want it to be a place that someone finds in my lifetime, and we can be in awe of one of (maybe) many of these ancient, thriving civilizations that rival our world today. The world is such a vast place, can we really be so arrogant as to believe we know everything about this planet, that we've uncovered every secret it holds? Hardly. So, yes it may be crazy, but Atlantis might really be out there, somewhere. Wouldn't that be something

The Final Days of Jesus


Rating: 5 Stars


I finished this within just a couple hours. It's 'easy' in that it breaks down one of the most important and overwhelming sections of the Bible. It's difficult, of course, in its content.

What makes it so accessible is that it presents the Gospel (that is, the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, one gospel, not four) together, piece by piece. It breaks down Holy Week day by day, first recording what each account says, then providing commentary of what these writings mean, or what can be made of the events.

This is an important text I'm seriously considering purchasing, as something not only to be read specifically during Easter, but as a study throughout the year. It's well-written, with additional readings listed at the end, broken down from easy to advanced. While I certainly would never recommend it as a replacement to Scripture, it certainly can be a valuable supplement. Highly recommended.

The Last Log of the Titanic


Rating: 3 Stars


Interesting read about what MIGHT have happened in the Titanic's final hours, and how the crew MIGHT have behaved. Ismay deserves all the blame he gets, though I've held that opinion long before I read this book. Brown certainly has no love for Lord or his book, and anyone's account who is different from his. At least he is persistent, and states his case. Based on other things I've read I can't say I agree with every assessment he puts forth, but he presents his case soundly.

Brown, however, references photographs several times, but at no point includes copies. Then when discussing Murdoch's maneuvers at the time just before and after striking the iceberg, illustrations and diagrams would've been extremely helpful to understand, especially for those of us who are visual learners. Same goes for when he was discussing the makeup of the ship, the watertight compartments, the double bottom, etc. There are no photographs included at all, and very few illustrations, lumped together in an appendix.

I'd recommend this for those interested in the Titanic, but be prepared for an author who is quite sure of himself being right and everyone else being wrong.

The Book of Books


Rating: 3 Stars


I absolutely love the King James Version of the Bible. It is the Bible I carry with me every Sunday, where I scribble notes in the margins and underline verses as my pastor speaks. This truly should not be a surprise to anyone who knows me, given the genres I enjoy reading most. The language itself is so beautifully simple - I suppose to me at least, and I enjoy wondering what it would've been like to live in the time when people spoke this way.

That being said, this book, about the Bible I love so much, was kind of a disappointment. Bragg's writing is fine, but the arguments got repetitive at times. I enjoyed the first section in regards to history, and the specific chapters relating to women in the bible found in section 3, but overall it just wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I am not sure I can even pinpoint quite what is off about it for me. It's a comprehensive and researched text, it's not a difficult read, and I hesitate to use the word boring, but...

Still, I can recommend it for those who enjoy the KJV, and are interested in its cultural and societal impact over the last 400 years.

Sister Queens


Rating: 5 Stars


This is quite easily the best biography I've read so far about Katherine. Perhaps that's because she's presented fully as her own person from childhood, sharing the page only with her sister and not Henry's subsequent wives.

Prior to this book, I knew nothing of Juana except that she was crazy. How wrong I was. Juana has been done a terrible injustice and this text does well to clear her name. That's not to say she wasn't shrewd or even manipulative, but certainly not 'mad'.

Heartbreaking is really the only way to describe the lives of these two women. Katherine's story is one I know well - at least from the time she arrived in England as Arthur's intended bride. I can't imagine being separated from my daughter, and yet she endured. What choice did she have? Is it then any wonder that Mary became the monarch she did? This should surprise no one.

Juana, on the other hand, is equally as heartbreaking a story. Manipulated and discredited by both her husband and father so they could steal the throne that was rightfully hers, then all but forgotten by an indifferent son, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles - who in turn championed his aunt Katherine's cause for so long.

This is a beautifully told story, one I could hardly put down. Here are two women who history has not been kind to, finally getting the recognition they are due, having their stories told based on contemporary writings from those close to them. It is a compelling story, highly recommended and well worth the time.

As You Wish


Rating: 5 Stars


I am absolutely the intended audience for this book. I've seen the movie countless times and can quote it pretty much beginning to end. In itself, this book is actually a beautifully sappy love letter about one of the greatest movies ever made.

And yet, I'm torn. By default, because I love the movie so, this book should automatically get five stars. But strangely there's this feeling I have that compels to give it three stars, but I can't explain why. Something just feels kind of off and I can't for the life of me pinpoint what it is.

Perhaps it's me. I'm not a huge fan of memoirs. They're usually written in a such forced conversational tone where the author is graciously humble about how awesome he or she is in relation to their career, which ultimately gives way to some humblebrags. That happened here sort of, though it wasn't Elwes himself, but fellow cast and crew chiming in at the beginning with how Elwes was perfect for the role, no one else could play Westley, etc.

However, the thing is, they're NOT wrong, it's not bragging, it's a fact. Cary Elwes IS Westley (though sometimes I can't help but look at him and think of Jonah from Twister, who was a grade A d-bag, but he played it well. It concerns me when actors I like play jerks so well, because I wonder if that's who they really are. And I don't want Elwes to be like Jonah, because that means he's NOT like Westley, and that would be devastating to the little girl in me who loves him so.)

My favorite parts all seemed to involve the stories about Andre. He really was a 'gentle giant' and it saddens me that he was in so much pain for most of his later life. But he never had a complaint and soldiered on through it. Perhaps even more perfectly than Elwes played Westley, Andre IS Fezzik. Some of the stories are sad and I hate to think of anyone being unkind to him - especially in regards to the wrestling stories, when other wrestlers would really hit him with chairs because 'he's giant so he can take it."

Anyway, this truly is a must for all who love this movie. For those who are not lovers of the movie or just don't get it, this might be a good way to help you understand all the hype around it and why it is so loved. Now if you'll excuse me from this incoherent rambling, I've got a movie to watch again.

The Complete Pompeii


Rating: 5 Stars


I absolutely adore this book and must have a copy for my very own.

If the burning desire to see these magnificent ruins did not already exist in my heart, this book certainly would have ignited it. Beautiful illustrations - both theoretical reconstructions and photographs of the site today, fill the pages. It truly is a complete picture of life in Pompeii, as much as we can know anyway - so much will remain a mystery. Additionally, the author offers travel advice and highlights specific points of interest upon visiting. I can't even imagine what it would be like to stand on a street in Pompeii and see Vesuvius looming beyond the city walls, but it's an experience I can't wait to have

Mary, Queen of Scots


Rating: 4 Stars


Mary, Queen of Scots is a figure I know much about and am forever intrigued by. I picked this one up in an effort to see how her story would be told to a YA audience - particularly the more delicate aspects, such as her unhappy marriage to Darnley, Rizzio's murder, and her rape by Bothwell. I feel the authors did a fine job without glossing over these issues. They presented the facts soundly, though at times very simply. This is necessary though, especially if this is meant for those who don't have much knowledge of Mary. As always, I find her life tragic, it will forever baffle me how someone with such intelligence could repeatedly make such poor decisions. She truly went with her heart and not her head in many instances

Tudors Versus Stewarts


Author: Linda Porter

Rating: 5 Stars

I'm not sure what there is to say besides, "Mary never stood a chance."

In all seriousness though, this was a wonderfully written, well-researched book about the entwining legacies of the Stewarts and Tudors. I've read quite a bit about Mary, Queen of Scots, but have always wondered about much of Scotland's monarchy before her - especially how Margaret and Henry could co-exist after her husband was killed in battle. Many gaps in my knowledge were filled in during the course of this reading, as well as providing a much needed introduction to the rulers of Scotland before Mary.

There was so much information I didn't know about the rulers of Scotland, and much about the Tudors (as in Henry relating to his sisters especially) to keep me interested. That's always a concern I have when beginning a new history book of this time period and subject. But no fear, it is detailed but not boring, and certainly not just a repeating of info elsewhere.

I appreciated all the backstory leading up to Mary's eventual demise at the (figurative) hand of her spoiled best of a cousin, Elizabeth (she did sign the death warrant after all, despite her ridiculous protestations that she didn't want it carried out. To that I say, "Rubbish"). I also like that the years of Mary's captivity in England were not rehashed, not were the multiple plots to free her/remove Elizabeth from the throne. This book truly focused on the century's worth of events that brought Mary to her tragic end not as a queen, but as a wrongfully-held prisoner. Fantastic read, highly recommended.

Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code

Author: Bart D. Ehrman

Rating: 4 Stars


Firstly, I didn't read this because of The Da Vinci Code directly. I read that book many, many years ago and don't have an opinion on the story either way, but I remember being wholly annoyed at the laughable disclaimer at the beginning about Brown's citing of documents as authentic.

Instead, I read this because I know my own knowledge of the history of Christianity has considerable gaps and the more I read, the more these gaps are filled in. Ehrman does a fine job explaining why something is incorrect in Brown's writing, without being forceful of his own opinion or why one should believe what he believes. Certainly he is far more credible than Brown, who is not a historian in any way.

I could've rated this five stars had Ehrman not been so repetitive. It absolutely irritates me to no end when authors say, "As I've discussed in the previous chapter..." Or "In the next chapter I will..." Come on, seriously. How about you cut out all the unnecessary filler and just present your case and facts supporting it? It's distracting and annoying.

I'd hope that anyone who enjoyed The Da Vinci Code would take time to read this as well, so they are not simply taking Brown's word for it about what is accurate in Christian history. It would be a shame to have so many more misinformed people speaking of fiction as fact

Friday, May 15, 2015

NetGalley Plug

I truly can not recommend NetGalley enough! I have used Goodreads for about three years and I love it. But as I was reading reviews from other users, time and again I would see that they were reviewing a 'free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review'. I didn't know what ARC meant or what NetGalley was, but eventually figured out ARC = Advanced Reader Copy...I think. The letters fit, anyway. Prior to this, my only means of receiving ARCs was through the Goodreads Giveaway Program, where authors or publishers will give away so many copies. Basically you request the book you're interested in, they draw names, and that's that. I have been lucky enough to win two ARCs since I discovered this part of the site within the last year. I love it because they send you a hard copy of the book. NetGalley is similar, but not with sending out hard copies - quite costly I imagine. Basically, you fill out a profile - are you an educator, a librarian, a blogger, professional reviewer, etc You select one, fill out the remainder of he profile highlighting your interested, then start requesting away. The publishers review your profile and decide whether or not to give you access to the title. Some are only downloadable to your computer (particularly children's books), but the majority of able to be sent to a reading device (Hellooooo Kindle). I have had access to so many interesting titles lately, and some publishers have even auto-approved me to have immediate access to anything from their catalog once I was accepted for the first one. I have found awesome titles for myself, for Eleanor, and for my classroom. I absolutely love it.

I know, I know, as I need MORE books, ones that are not even published yet, when I have a Goodreads 'to read' list of over 2,500 books. But seriously, what else am I going to do when Eleanor is away every other weekend? READ and WRITE, of course!